Think You Can’t Afford Online Grocery Shopping? You Might Be Surprised

grocery delivery services
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For a Penny Hoarder, grocery delivery service is a luxury — and not just because someone else does heavy lifting of going to the store and hauling in the bags.

Like most luxuries, grocery delivery services like Peapod, Instacart and Shipt come at a cost.

You have to pay for delivery, and sometimes the cost of the groceries themselves doesn’t match what’s in the store.

But as it turns out, if you’re prone to impulse shopping or underestimating the total of your pile of goods, indulging in a grocery delivery service might actually save you money.

Yeah, we were surprised too. Isn’t it great when the easy way actually is better?

6 Ways Online Grocery Shopping Can Actually Help You Save Money

Many of these tips come from reddit user ladyorchid, who wrote a wonderful post about how she saves money with Peapod.

But as it turns out, lots of shoppers agree grocery delivery services can be a frugal option.

Still don’t believe us? Here are six examples.

1. You’ll Save on Impulse Buys

It’s a lot harder to let yourself get away with buying an extra something you don’t need when you’re shopping online.

Clicking somehow feels so much more intentional than throwing the ice cream blindly into the mess of goods you’re carting around.

Plus, since many of these grocery delivery services keep a list of your favorite/repeat buys, it’s easy to buy just what you need instead of what you want — it’s already programmed in!

2. You Can See How Much You’re Spending Before It’s Too Late

I don’t know about you, but I have definitely had unpleasant surprises at the checkout counter. It’s so easy to accidentally round down instead of up as you’re keeping that running estimate in your head.

And once you’re up there, it can be embarrassing to ask to put things back.

But when you use an online grocery delivery service, you’ll see your shopping cart’s total, updated in real time as you add more items.

So you’ll know exactly when you’re approaching the cap on your grocery budget… and be better able to stick to it.

Plus, if you go over your total, you’ll probably be more likely to take junk food out of your cart than the stuff you really need — a win for your wallet and your waistline.

3. You Have More Time to Plan Meals

Many of these services offer on-demand grocery shipping within a few hours.

But you might save yourself extra shipping fees if you set up your order ahead of time — and also save money by tailoring that order as time goes on.

Maybe you realize by Tuesday that you don’t need another gallon of milk — and so you take it off your order to be delivered on Thursday.

Not only will the extra time afforded by grocery delivery help you save food waste, it’ll also give you more control over your meal planning.

If you make your order ahead of time and see your grocery budget approaching critical mass, you can swap out one of your recipes — and its pricy ingredients — for a cheaper option. It’s a lot easier to delete something from your cart than to run around the supermarket putting things back.

4. Some Items are Actually Cheaper

SuddenlyFrugal’s Leah Ingram says meat cost significantly less through Peapod than when she bought it at the store herself.


5. You Can Sort by Unit Price to Make Sure You Get the Best Deals

It’s a lot easier than whipping out your phone to calculate the price per ounce in the store aisle, or crouching down to check the bottom row, avoiding the retailer’s sneaky marketing. They put the highest-priced options right at eye level!

6. You Can Still Take Advantage of Deals

Are you a deal-stacking rock star? Use your strategies here, too.

Most grocery-delivery services are compatible with manufacturer coupons and receipt rebates through Ibotta.

Peapod even doubles coupons up to $9.99 — just check its FAQ!

Plus, sometimes the platforms themselves have sales, and most offer an introductory discount of a certain percentage or dollar amount off your first order.

Even with the delivery fees, these savings might mitigate the difference and keep your grocery budget even lower, especially if you struggle with impulse buys.

And don’t forget you use gas or spend public transit fare money every time you go shopping (unless you walk or bike) — and also that your time is money, especially if you work for yourself.

So go ahead and put your feet up. In this case, luxury is actually the smarter money move.

Your Turn: Do you use a grocery delivery service?

Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her creative writing has been featured in DMQ Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection and elsewhere.